Opinions on science derailed by poor online sample?

Scientific American and Nature recently joined forces to poll readers around the world about their opinions of science. The findings include opinions about science and politics, climate denial, nuclear power, the flu and more.

While this data seems interesting, it might be questionable due to the sample:

More than 21,000 people responded via the Web sites of Nature and of Scientific American and its international editions. As expected, it was a supportive and science-literate crowd—19 percent identified themselves as Ph.Ds. But attitudes differed widely depending on particular issues—climate, evolution, technology—and on whether respondents live in the U.S., Europe or Asia.

So the findings may really be about the opinions of a more “supportive and science-literate crowd” rather than a true representation of international opinion. This is a common issue with open online surveys: it is very difficult to get a sample that is representative of a larger population.

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